Lydia and I are avid boardgames. I’ve been playing them since my early 20s, and introduced Lydia to the boardgaming world after we started dating. A while ago, we decided to host a boardgaming night for our vegan supper club, and it was an absolute success. Nobody else had seen or heard of any of the “newest generation” of board games, and a number of them are now boardgamers themselves.
As an aside, check out this very nice introduction to modern board games, it’s a 6 minute-long video that will give you a good idea of what I’m talking about, but it’s basically this: if your idea of board games involves Monopoly or Candyland, I need to tell you that you’re outdated by over 100 years — Monopoly was created around 1902 and Candyland in 1949. Since then, board games have advanced in leaps and bounds and there are many, many thousands of titles that are very appealing and interesting for adults. You wouldn’t know that by walking into a Target or Toys’R’Us because, funnily enough, the board game market is kind of a Monopoly. But that’s a discussion for another day, and another type of blog.
Bringing it back to topic: there have been some conversations between us and our (now boardgamer) friends about veganism and the themes of several games we’ve played. For example, in a lot of board games, food is represented by tokens or cards with images of meat on them, like a steak or a fish. Some board games even involve raising animals and using them as food, like Agricola, a game where the players are medieval farmers trying to build the best farm.
It’s not surprising that board games in general are not specifically vegan-friendly, after all we live in a world that is mostly not vegan-friendly. That said, the majority of games have “vegan neutral” themes, like building a viniculture, racing cars, exploring space, etc. But when they involve animals we sometimes try to “veganize” them if possible, since some vegans really dislike using the meat/fish food tokens, or others try to play games without using animals, although sometimes that’s inescapable for certain games. Sometimes we come up with alternatives explanations about what we’re doing with the animals in the game, or simply refer to the tokens using their vegan equivalent.
The non-vegan aspect of those games doesn’t bother me or Lydia that much, because first of all, it’s just a game and we’re aware enough to not be influenced by the normalization of consumption of animal resources depicted in a game and second, using animals is something people did and still do, and if a game has a medieval setting, for example, it was a normal and necessary thing at the time. So we just roll with it, since it doesn’t change anything in our real life. But we had people not want to play certain games because of it — to each their own.
I feel that a nicely designed, modern game with a vegan theme of some sort could be a great tool to introduce people to veganism. Not just a straight piece of vegan propaganda dressed as a board game, but something that would introduce people to the ethical and environmental issues related to animal exploitation and make them think about those issues. But I’m no game designer, so I’m not the one tackling this task. Any volunteers? 🙂
I’ve kept my eyes open for board games that have a vegan-friendly theme, but so far I haven’t found any. There are a couple that deal with environmental issues (CO2 is one that comes to mind), but there’s nothing specifically vegan.
So we were pleasantly surprised when a friend gifted us a copy of Agricola: All Creatures Big And Small (A:ACBAS), a two-player game based on the aforementioned Agricola board game. A:ACBAS is a very simplified version of its parent, focusing on the building of a medieval farm with the objective of breeding the most animals. Not vegan at all, but fortunately there’s no need or mechanism in the game to use them as food, so Lydia and I came up with a reimagined theme that makes it a nice vegan game.
In our version, instead of building a breeding operation and acquiring animals, we’re building farm sanctuaries, and rescuing animals. We go to town and get animals from the auctions, bring them back and add them to our sanctuary. In the end, whoever has the better sanctuary and has rescued more animals wins. The game is really good, and the reworked theme fits nicely if you’re turned off by the original breeding farm theme. So if you want to try a really nice board game that can be easily veganized, try this one.